Louisiana Black Man Who Spent 23 Years In Prison For Stealing Hedge Clippers Granted Parole
A 63-year-old Black man who was serving life in prison for stealing a pair of hedge clippers from someone’s garage has been granted parole after spending 23 years behind bars.
Fair Wayne Bryant’s life sentence was handed down as a result of his criminal record, which according to the parole panel consists of 22 arrests and 11 convictions. Those convictions included four other felonies, only one of which was for a violent crime – an attempted armed robbery of a taxi driver in 1979.
While he had been sentenced to life without parole, on Thursday, October 15, the Committee on Parole voted 3-0 to release him, reported KLFY.
Just two months ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court had rejected Bryant’s appeal by a vote of the vote was 5-1; the five votes came from White, male board members, while the one vote in favour was from the only Black member of the committee, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.
Chief Justice Johnson commented on the rejected appeal, saying the sentence was ‘grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose’, and explained that Bryant’s jail time had already cost US taxpayers approximately $518,667. (£401,600).
Alanah Odoms, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, said in an emailed statement to AP that the decision was ‘long overdue’.
Louisiana State University (LSU) Professor Robert Lancaster, director of the LSU Parole and Re-entry Clinic, represented Bryant at the hearing. Bryant was also assisted by third-year student Kelsey Jenkins, who helped him draft a memo that was submitted to the committee supporting his early release.
As per KLFY, Jenkins said:
Mr. Bryant’s sentence is an example of the flaws in Louisiana’s criminal legal system, but the Parole Committee’s decision to grant him early release shows the importance of periodic evaluation of an individual’s rehabilitation, which Mr. Bryant will continue with the support of the Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.
According to reports, following his release Bryant will be required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a result of his history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as following a curfew and performing community service.
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